One missile attack from a US gunship was enough to turn a wedding into a funeral.
The tragedy hit the village of Makr al-Deeb, 15 miles from Iraq's border with Syria. Between 42 and 45 civilians, among them 10 women and 15 children, were killed in the US missile attack on the village, according to the police in Ramadi, the capital of the province where the village is located.
Video footage from The Associated Press complements the macabre statistics. It shows a lorry taking away bodies wrapped up in bloody sheets, with little children's corpses among them. "They dropped dozens of bombs on us. All our houses were destroyed...", a weeping villager tells a reporter.
The Pentagon argues that aircraft destroyed a safe house in Makr al-Deeb from where fighters were waging their war against US troops. This argument is hardly convincing, as this was not the first time American helicopters had mistaken celebratory shooting into the air for hostile fire. In July 2002, US aircraft attacked a wedding party in Afghanistan's Oruzgan province, killing 48 and wounding 117 civilians.
Apache pilots do not take the trouble to look into numerous scope sights, but pull the trigger at the sight of a group of locals because they feel mortal, animal fear. Panic has not released its grip on them even six weeks before power is set to be handed over to Iraq's interim national government, on June 30.
President Bush has said it will be a complete handover of sovereignty. He promised to find candidates for the president, prime minister and key ministerial positions in the interim government within the next two weeks. Mr Bush is expected to make a speech soon, in which he will set out a plan for the transfer of power. The United States will thereby absolve itself from all the responsibilities of an occupying state, but will retain 135,000 troops in the country.
Mr Bush displays unflagging optimism, even though the entire Iraqi campaign is on the verge of failure.
Pessimistic sentiments are becoming increasingly strong in Washington. US Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz had to admit at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that the Pentagon had made major mistakes in Iraq. The most serious one was that the US had erred in its judgement as to how long the Iraqis would tolerate the occupation. The Pentagon had planned to launch a peace process immediately after Saddam Hussein's overthrow, but witnessed the start of a guerrilla war instead.
The wedding tragedy and stories of US soldiers abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison have fuelled hatred for the occupiers. This feeling is now becoming ever stronger. Iraq's future is, therefore, more unclear and insecure than it was under Saddam Hussein.
The interim government's future is, probably, the most insecure.
It is obvious that the government will not enjoy complete sovereignty if it does not control the US-led forces in Iraq after June 30.
However, under the US-proposed plan an American general will be in command of the multinational force, as well as Iraq's security forces, including defence ministry troops.
The interim government will have no other military support than that of the American-led forces. The idea of raising a 260,000-strong national security force, which would include 75,000 police officers and an army of 40,000 by June 30, has not been translated into reality. As few as four battalions, i.e. 3,000 military personnel, thus far, make up the Iraqi army, while 54,000 men have yet to be recruited to the police force.
This means the government will be a new cover for the United States, and further developments will be largely the same, only more dramatic.
Iraq's religious communities, through their guerrillas, will continue squeezing occupying forces from cities, which was the case in al Falluja, where an American general commands Iraqi fighters who had fought US troops.
New government members will face the danger of being killed like Izzedine Salim, president of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, who recently lost his life in a bomb attack.
Any group of Iraqis, irrespective of whether it is a wedding party or people praying together, may be shot by American aircraft, while the occupying authorities will not even bother to offer apologies to victims' families.
The token sovereignty that the new Iraqi government will enjoy under the Washington-proposed plan threatens endless chaos for the war-torn country.
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